As many of you know, my mother lives in an assisted living facility but I quickly learned that she and her friends should all wear “I solemnly swear I am up to no good” t-shirts because they get into just as much mischief as they ever have. Maybe that’s what attracted me to Mark Reutlinger’s novels, which don’t just take place in the Julius and Rebecca Cohen Home for Jewish Seniors but are much more realistic about what life in assisted living and retirement homes is really like. I previously reviewed Mrs. Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death (link at the end of this review) and couldn’t wait to review his latest novel, A Pain in the Tuchis. Once again he had me enjoying our two amateur sleuths’ antics as much as I enjoyed this fun whodunit. Sound interesting?
There’s always one in every bunch and, at the Jewish Home for Seniors, it’s Vera Gold. Vera is a truly nasty piece of work. She goes way beyond curmudgeon and into downright Grinch territory. There are very few people living at the home who can even tolerate her and most have learned the hard way to give her a wide berth. She loves to get people into trouble, like Rena who was keeping a cat in her room without permission, various staff members who ticked her off for no apparent reason, or just by talking smack about fellow residents. Vera was a one-woman morale demolition team, sowing seeds of discord everywhere she turned.
Vera is the kind of person who Yom Kippur seems made for – a person with many acts to atone for every year. Unfortunately this year she’s not going to get that opportunity even if she wants it because she kicks the bucket. Now people dying in a home for seniors is not an unexpected event, as anyone who’s lived there, worked there, or had family there can attest; however, people are not supposed to be murdered there. Surely Vera’s time had just come and that was that, right?
“I should have suspected all was not quite kosher with Vera Gold’s death when one of the men carrying her body accidentally tripped at the front door and almost spilled poor Vera onto the ground. This was not a good omen.
Vera died at the close of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, when we are called upon to examine our lives, confess the bad things we have done the previous year, and ask both God and the people we have wronged to forgive us. In her life, Vera had much to atone for and many of whom to ask forgiveness, but knowing Vera as I did, I had no doubt she was unrepentant to the end.”
When Vera’s sister, Fannie, insists Vera was probably poisoned because she had been so evil to everyone around her, no one takes her seriously at first. Besides, the list of people who wouldn’t have joyfully committed the deed is extremely short compared to the people who would have done it. Still, Fannie is adamant about it and determined to find out what happened. She turns to the two people at the Home she knows have a reputation for ferreting out murderers, Rose Kaplan and her best friend, Ida (our narrator).
Neither of them particularly liked Vera either but they don’t want some murderer running loose where they live, if it was indeed murder, so they agree to help Fannie, who’s also a resident at the Home. Neither of our amateur sleuths expect much to come of it but at least it will be something interesting to do and even someone like Vera deserves justice.
The police are relieved to have Mrs. Kaplan working with them unofficially on the case since she did such a good job with that Passover murder case…at least they’re happy about it until the clues she uncovers leads her in an entirely different direction than they think is appropriate. Then they promptly throw her off the case – as if that would stop Mrs. Kaplan. Who do they think they are? Pfft.
And it’s a good thing Mrs. Kaplan is so determined because the murderer is busy plotting another murder – hers. If she can’t get this case solved, she could find herself sharing Vera’s fate any day now.
Mrs. Kaplan is an avid reader of Sherlock Holmes and firmly believes any crime can be solved by using his methods. She’s no slouch in the brains department, and all of her little brain cells are chugging along quite nicely – and I wouldn’t dare add that nasty biased phrase “for her age.” She’s definitely the leader of this little sleuthing pack. Ida, our narrator, takes a back seat to Mrs. Kaplan and seems most of the time to be in awe of her. That said, however, Ida is no slouch herself even if she is a bit self-deprecating. And it’s fun to see them run rings around Mr. Pupik, the Home’s pompous administrator (as I fear mom and her cronies in “crime” probably do too).
I’ve read a lot of cozy mysteries featuring amateur detectives. A lot of them have heartwarming touches to them but they’re rarely funny. A Pain in the Tuchis is definitely funny. If you have any stereotypes about what it’s like to become elderly (a word I hate) then you can just leave them at the front door. Those of you with parents or grandparents in assisted living will quickly realize Mark Reutlinger’s novels are far more realistic about what life in a good retirement home is like than most people think, except hopefully for the murdering part – yikes. I think mystery fans are going to have a blast reading it, just like I did.
Can’t wait to read it? A Pain in the Tuchis is only available as an e-book from your favorite online bookseller, and it’s a bargain at only $2.99. So click on the link below to download it now and find out who done it!
I’d love to get your comments on A Pain in the Tuchis, Mark Reutlinger and/or his other work, and/or this review. Click here to read our review of Mrs. Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death.